Columnist Robert Trigaux sorts out the winners and losers after the storm.
Face it. Everybody in Florida was a loser to the statewide rampage by Hurricane Irma. Floridians suffered distress and fear, expense, the home-vs.-work tug of war, evacuation (and post-storm return) hell, personal discomfort, damage and — even now for too many residents and businesses — oppressive power outages that Irma delivered from the Keys to Tampa Bay to Jacksonville. • Still, out of this mess there are winners of a sort, just as there are losers of all kinds. • Here are my top winners and losers. Ask me in a week or a month from now and the list will have changed, just as the post-Irma scene will evolve. • But this is now, so here they are:
At one point last week, this metro-who-must-not-be-hit was in the exact path of a Cat 4 Irma. Then the hurricane shifted direction, a bit, while losing its worst punch. There’s a reason the top headline in the Tampa Bay Times “Hurricane Edition” on Sept. 11 reads “WE’RE LUCKY.”
Maybe that should become Tampa Bay’s new slogan. FLORIDA INSURERS
Had a Category 4 or 5 Irma hit high-population areas in Florida, this state’s crop of young and still untested property insurance companies easily could have been overwhelmed by billions of dollars in claims. Instead, insurers survived to await the next great storm.
GOV. RICK SCOTT
Sure, we are all tired of hearing our governor give the same dire warnings of imminent death and destruction to Floridians who did not evacuate. But Scott (and his Navy cap) owned the Irma airwaves, earning the widespread perception that Florida was on top of the Irma crisis.
Tourism escaped what could have been a crippling blow — be it endless miles of mangled beachfront towns or badly damaged theme parks across Orlando. Now tourism’s message is easier: Irma’s gone but we’re still here. Come on down!
HOME PREP, FOOD STORES How much did you spend on bottled water, batteries, plywood and junk food to prepare for Irma? Personally, I estimate about $350. I will be shocked if Home Depot, Publix and other chains in Florida do not rack up huge sales gains fueled by Irma being described for days on national TV as “catastrophic.”
BAY NEWS 9
Amid the overkill by the national TV media to cover Irma, the local Bright House Networks-now-Spectrum news/weather channel distinguished itself with less sensational, we-knowTampa-Bay coverage before, during and after the hurricane.
Sure it was in short supply. But name another commodity that got delivered by police escort?
He enjoyed plenty of national media attention as our tough, spirited leader offering such pithy gems to CNN’s Anderson Cooper as: “We are about to get our own version of what hell looks like over the next 24 hours.” In the end, there was no catastrophe. But the good PR remains. ANYWHERE WITH A/C Whether it was the movie house, malls or local Starbucks, any place that allowed Floridians who had lost power a few hours to get some temporary air conditioning relief and recharge their cellphones may as well have been heaven.
We saw it after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and again in 2004-2005 when a flurry of major storms struck Florida. Any big hurricanes that dominate national and international news coverage — as Irma did — send a broad message that Florida can be a dangerous place at times. That will have a detrimental economic impact on the state, but not for long. Hurricanes be damned, there’s a reason more than 20 million people call Florida home these days. UTILITIES
Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, FPL and dozens of other utilities are trying to put the state’s Humpty Dumpty electric grid back together — a herculean task. Think of all those homes and businesses without power. Normally, they should be sending monthly checks to cover big power bills in this hot weather. Not this time. FLORIDA’S CITRUS CROP Our state’s orange juice industry was already in a tailspin. Hurricanes in 2004-2005 hurt. Then a nasty greening disease and changing consumer tastes have further decimated citrus output. Irma made things far worse, damaging as much as 70 percent of the crop in parts of South Florida.
Just when folks needed a quick flight out of Florida to escape Irma, many airlines were pricing their one-way tickets at ultra-high prices. Amid outcries of price gouging, airlines will be remembered poorly by some — though most air travelers have very short-term memories when it comes to airline reputations.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
As the Rays entered a do-ordie stretch to reach the playoffs, the team was rerouted to New York. What should have been a critical series at the Trop against the Yankees was, thanks to Irma, played at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. Trop attendance at Rays home games is puny enough but playing key games at guest stadiums — just as the Houston Astros played the Texas Rangers at the Trop after Hurricane Harvey — can unsettle any displaced team.
ST. PETE MAYOR’S RACE The Rick (Kriseman) vs. Rick (Baker) campaign fight was front and center until Irma back-burnered local politics. Now the dueling Ricks must reassess if their campaign pitches need tweaking postIrma in order to rekindle interest among St. Pete’s distracted voters.
Its dense population suffered a higher percentage of electricity outages — more than 70 percent — from Irma than Hillsborough or Pasco, and thus may suffer a slower return to normalcy. CRUISE SHIPS
Plenty of cruise ships sailing from Tampa to the Caribbean were delayed or rerouted to islands that were not severely damaged by the early Cat 5 winds of Irma. Not a great selling point for the fall season. From St. Martin to Barbuda to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, damage to the islands was heavy.
The Texas hurricane that seemed to inundate half of Texas with floodwaters became yesterday’s news when Cat 5 Irma barreled across the Caribbean toward Florida. Now Irma and Harvey share the disaster limelight and the nation’s attentions and resources. Like it or not, the woes and rebuilding of Florida and Texas are now closely intertwined.
TAMPA MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN
HOME PREP, FOOD STORES
GOV. RICK SCOTT
BAY NEWS 9
ST. PETE MAYOR’S RACE
TAMPA BAY RAYS
ANYWHERE WITH A/C